U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Ryan, Sughrue Advance to Face Each Other in Final Match September 21, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, MO. By Joey Flyntz, USGA

Dave Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill., never trailed in his semifinal match against medalist Tim Jackson, winning, 1 up, to reach his first USGA final. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Dave Ryan and Matthew Sughrue each won two matches on Wednesday to advance to Thursday’s championship match in the 62nd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Old Warson Country Club, which played to a par of 71 and measured 7,035 yards for the quarterfinals and semifinals.

Ryan, 62, of Taylorville, Ill., entered the week on the heels of claiming the Illinois Senior Amateur title and continued his strong play. On Tuesday, he eliminated two-time U.S. Senior Amateur winner Paul Simson, helped by a hole-in-one on the par-4 14th hole, the third known ace on a par 4 in USGA championship history. After beating Simson in 20 holes, Ryan ousted two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and the medalist of this championship, Tim Jackson, 1 up, to reach the final.

“I don't know what to say. I'm at a loss for words,” said Ryan, who lives 90 minutes from Old Warson. “To be honest with you, I'm a little shocked. I was fortunate to beat him and Paul Simson. Those are two tough guys to take down.”

After cruising to a 5-and-3 victory over Michael Dunsmore in Wednesday morning’s quarterfinals, Ryan won the first two holes against Jackson in the semifinals and never relinquished the lead. With a 1-up advantage on the 18th green, Ryan faced a 9-foot putt to win and admitted that he felt like he needed to win the match there, rather than risk extra holes against a formidable opponent.

“It was uphill and I just had to hit it,” he said. “Fortunately, it went in. That's a tough hole.”

“He made two good putts in a row there,” said Jackson, of Ryan’s par putt and a birdie on No. 17 that matched Jackson. “When you win matches like that, that’s what you do. I’ve done it before and I’ve had it done to me.”

Sughrue, 57, of Arlington, Va., came out on top in a pair of see-saw matches, beginning with a 1-up triumph over 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel in the quarterfinals. Only nine of the holes were halved, yet neither player enjoyed more than a 1-up lead.

Matthew Sughrue, of Arlington, Va., was tested by both of his opponents during Wednesday's quarterfinals and semifinals, but came out on top. (USGA/Chris Keane)

In the semifinals, Sughrue only led for one hole against Kevin Cahill, a quarterfinalist last year, and trailed, 1 down, heading to the 18th tee. He won the 18th with a par after two-putting from 40 feet and won the match in 19 holes after getting up and down from the right of Old Warson’s first green while Cahill couldn’t do the same from behind the green.

“The Hanzel match was a real grinder. It was a tough match against a great player,” said Sughrue, who is competing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur. “We didn't play as well in this one, but on the back nine, we both kind of steadied, and coming down the stretch, it's not stroke play, it's a matter of who wins the match.”

Cahill cost himself a chance at victory with wayward drives on the 18th and 19th holes, missing right on No. 18 and hooking his drive on No. 1 short and left.

“It's disappointing when you have a 1-up lead going into the last hole. All I had to do was hit the fairway. Just hit the fairway,” said Cahill, 56, of Waukesha, Wis. “I just didn't drive it well on that hole. I think I hit that fairway twice in all the rounds.”

All quarterfinalists are exempt into next year’s U.S. Senior Amateur at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. The semifinalists also receive an exemption in the 2018 championship at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. Ryan and Sughrue are exempt into the next three U.S. Senior Amateurs, as well as next year’s U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur championships. The champion will receive a 10-year U.S. Senior Amateur exemption, two-year exemptions into the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur, and one-year exemptions into the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Open sectional qualifying.

Sughrue was unaware of the Senior Open exemption at stake against Cahill, and in retrospect, he believes that was a good thing.

“I'm glad you didn't tell me beforehand. I wouldn't have been able to take [the club] back on that last shot,” he said. “I made one Senior Open (2013) and I had a tough week on the golf course and I think it was overwhelming for me. I never played in front of 40,000 people before. I vowed that if I ever got a chance again, I would be ready for that. I wanted to try to prove myself again at a Senior Open and now you're telling me I'm in. I'm just thrilled.”

Jackson, 57, of Germantown, Tenn., never led in his quarterfinal victory over John McClure until the 19th hole, rallying from a 2-down deficit with three holes remaining. Jackson began his comeback by saving par from a bunker on No. 16, then made a 45-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole. He birdied the first hole to win. Jackson was again playing catchup from the get-go against Ryan, and couldn’t draw even.

“I couldn't do anything,” said Jackson, the 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. “I couldn't drive the ball in the fairway. But I hung in there. I scrambled and did what I could.”

With Jackson’s loss, the drought for medalists winning the U.S. Senior Amateur continues. John Richardson in 1987 is the last Senior Amateur medalist to win the championship, the longest medalist drought of all USGA championships.

The 18-hole championship match is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday.  

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org. 

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